The western lowland gorilla is critically endangered, but the Franklin Park Zoo is working hard to protect these animals. By helping your kids get excited about animals like gorillas, you can help a new generation get motivated to work for conservation. The Franklin Park Zoo’s website is a great place to start—they have all kinds of crafts, quizzes, photos, and facts to encourage any young nature lover’s passion for the world around us. They even have a page dedicated to real-life ways that your family can help the fight for the animals we share our planet with, like creating butterfly gardens and compost piles. Little things like that add up to big change, including the kind of change that can help the great apes!
We talk about “panda bears” and “koala bears,” but for a long time, neither was actually considered a bear species! Koalas are definitely not bears—they’re marsupials, distant cousins of kangaroos and wombats. However, their short faces and rounded ears make them look a little bear-like, hence the nickname.
Pandas are another story. Physically, they have a lot in common with bears, but there are also lots of differences. They eat almost nothing but bamboo, and they have an enlarged bone on their hands that looks like a thumb—characteristics that seem to make them more like red pandas, which are part of the raccoon family. Recent DNA studies, though, have shown that pandas are indeed part of the bear family—they’re just not as closely related to polar bears, grizzlies, and the others as they are to each other!
Photos via Wikimedia Commons
The average temperature in Antarctica is around -70 degrees Fahrenheit, but that wasn’t always the case– tens of millions of years ago, it was a temperate area with lots of life– including dinosaurs. Expeditions to find their fossils are tough, because paleontologists have to brave frigid weather and find ways to remove the fossils from the frozen ground– often, they have to use rock saws to remove big sections of rock that contains the fossils and bring the whole thing back home with them. But the dinosaurs they find are amazing, like this predatory dinosaur called Cryolophosaurus. Its name means “frozen crested lizard!”
And if you’ve got a dinosaur fan in your family, be sure to check out our new Zoodinos series!
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Rhinos are at once some of the world’s most popular animals, and some of its most critically endangered. These massive animals require plenty of space, and destruction of their habitats has put them at great risk. On top of that, poachers hunt rhinos for their ivory horns, to the point that some species of rhino are on the brink of extinction. There are only three northern white rhinos remaining in the world, and only sixty or so Javanese rhinos.
However, all hope’s not lost—environmental scientists have been working to preserve these amazing animals, and have had some success. The southern white rhinoceros nearly went extinct, but there are now over 20,000 individuals, thanks to conservation efforts to protect them from poachers and reintroduce them to areas where they once lived. To help save the rhinoceros, check out the conservation programs sponsored by your local zoo!
Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Zigomar
If your Zoodinos fans devoured the latest issue about T. rex, they might like to learn about an even bigger predatory dinosaur: Spinosaurus!
Spinosaurus was enormous- up to 59 feet long and 21 tons. Its name means “spine lizard,” for the giant spikes along its back. Those spines are extensions of its back bones, and the longest ones were well over five feet long. It was discovered in Egypt in 1912, and it’s been fascinating both scientists and the general public ever since. One of its most remarkable traits is that it was probably divided its time between the water and dry land. Scientists think that Spinosaurus was largely aquatic because it has some features in common with water-dwelling creatures today, like its short hind legs (like a duck’s), a long snout for seeking out prey in the water (like a crocodile’s). But in the water or on the land, you probably wouldn’t want to come across a Spinosaurus when it was hungry!
P.S. If you’re not already subscribed to Zoodinos, you can sign up here!
Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mike Bowler
Our readers must have been up all night working on these gorgeous drawings of nocturnal animals!
Winter will be here before you know it, and that means that food will be scarce for our feathered friends. If you’d like to help out the birds in your neighborhood, check with your local nature center to see what kinds of birds travel through your area and what they eat. They can also give you tips on what NOT to feed them, like bread– it doesn’t have much nutritional value for them, and they’re better off with food like seeds.
Depending on where you live, backyard birds might be tiny brown sparrows, colorful red cardinals, long-legged cranes, or wide-eyed owls. What’s the coolest bird you’ve seen in your neighborhood?
Photo by Rennett Stowe
In the fall and winter, food can be scarce for lots of animals, including birds. The Nashville Zoo has tips on how you can make your yard a haven for birds in the colder months, with advice about different kinds of bird seed to put out, different kinds of feeders, and where you can place them to attract the most birds. Plus, they include a gorgeous photo gallery of the kinds of birds that you might see!
If you put up a bird feeder (or if you have one already), comment with photos of the birds you’ve seen!
Photo by USFWSmidwest
We humans are awake during the day and sleep at night, but not all animals are on the same schedule as us. Animals of all shapes and sizes, from fireflies to possums, mice to leopards, have adapted to a life after dark.
At night, it’s harder to see, so many nocturnal animals rely on their other senses or have big eyes, like owls, to help them see in low light. But despite the drawbacks, there are lots of advantages to being nocturnal too. Some animals, like lions, hunt at night, giving them an advantage over prey that sleep at night and can’t see well in the dark. On the flip side, other animals like rodents are often more active at night in order to avoid predators that could catch them during the day. For some animals, being active at night allows them to save energy on hot days– lots of desert animals sleep during the day and wake up at night when it’s cooler. Even some desert flowers only bloom at night to avoid excessive heat and sunlight!
Photo by Profberger
It looks like our Zooworks winners had a whole trunkful of fun making these drawings!
The latest Zoobooks animal is an old favorite: elephants! But even though they’re popular animals, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing new to learn about them. Check out these fun facts!
- An elephant’s trunk is both its nose and its upper lip.
- Elephants live in matrilineal groups, led by the oldest female.
- Newborn elephants weigh in around 260 pounds.
- Elephants are very smart animals—they’re able to recognize themselves in mirrors. That’s a skill that only a few other animals, like some dolphins and apes, have.
- Elephants can’t jump.
- An elephant’s tusks are teeth—specifically, incisors, like our “big front teeth.”
- When elephants swim, they use their tusks as snorkels.
Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim.
Nature can be an amazing source of inspiration for young artists- different landscapes and animals make for great subjects. The Pittsburgh Zoo has all kinds of resources for young nature lovers and artists. You can download coloring pages featuring different ecosystems and animals, from a giraffe and a rhino on the African Savanna to a sea turtle and a stingray swimming through the ocean. If your kids want to try their hand at drawing some new animals, the website includes helpful how-to guides with instructions on drawing everything from fish to elephants.
And if your kids finish all the coloring sheets from the Pittsburgh Zoo, you can head over to a zoo or nature center near you and find some new animals for them to draw!